Resting plucking hand's thumb on fretboard side

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by tony82, Jul 21, 2013.

  1. tony82


    Jun 27, 2010
    Hi all,

    Lately I've been experiencing with this technique (it may have a more formal name I don't know of!). I basically put my thumb for the plucking hand on the side of the fretboard, instead of making it rest on one of the pick-ups. With the angle my hand forms, I end up plucking the string somewhere between the end of the fretboard and the closest pickup.

    I like that for slow songs as I find it gives a much richer sound, but I do find it difficult to play fast songs like that.

    I was wondering if this is a common technique and what were the pros/cons of doing so?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. cjmodulus


    Jul 15, 2010
    Lots of folks pluck there- I usually pluck over the bridge pickup, but I like to vary where I keep it to get different sounds. Plucking right over the end of the fingerboard sounds really great on fretless, IMO. I love the way mine sounds when I pluck there.

    If there are any cons for keeping your plucking hand there, I'd say that it might make faster runs more difficult since the string is a good bit looser there, but one could always lighten their touch or move their hands.

    Edit- you mentioned the fast song thing, I need to read closer, haha!
  3. tony82


    Jun 27, 2010
    Thanks for your response, well I'm glad you also noticed the issue with fast songs too, as I was wondering if I should insist..! I might, but if you also feel like it's a bit unnatural, then I know I'm not imagining it...

    Still, I find the pleasure I now experience of playing slow songs has been decupled :hyper:
  4. P Town

    P Town

    Dec 7, 2011
    I do the same, but I'm not very good, so it does not mean it's a proper technique, but it does work for me the same as it does for you.
  5. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Ohio, USA
    I rest my thumb on the side of the fingerboard a lot. Most of my gigs are roots reggae and I only play fretless, and I love the sound of flatwounds plucked over the fingerboard. I can get a ton of different tones by changing the pickup configuration while picking over the neck.
  6. tr4252


    May 27, 2013
    I play this way too; my Precision had a thumb rest, so I learned to use it. Have a Squier Jag now, and rest my thumb on the fretboard out of habit. Seems pretty comfortable to me.

  7. cons: you dont get too much attack in that area, just boomy and soft...
  8. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Which in some situations will be a pro. I often anchor there. I've used that spot for years.
  9. tony82


    Jun 27, 2010
    Thanks a lot of all the feedback guys! It's greatly appreciated and confirming my impression that this is a great way to play soft songs.

    Now would someone happen to know if this technique has a more formal name maybe? If find the title of the thread to be a bit of a mouthful, but couldn't make it any shorter without losing meaning..! Also I feel this could benefit someone in search of information on the subject.
  10. musicianary


    Jun 23, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    Not quite resting the thumb on the fingerboard, but this is pretty close. Nobody can argue against this technique.

    Attached Files:

  11. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I would argue that in that photo, Paul is likely playing the notes with his thumb rather than resting his thumb. And anyone could argue against this technique. Whether the argument is valid is another story.
  12. musicianary


    Jun 23, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    I meant nobody can argue the technique in that it is Paul McCartney using it, not that he is resting his thumb. I could tell by his left hand position that he's using his thumb to pluck the string.
  13. Geezer Butler in the early days of Sabbath hammered the S**t out of his precision playing right at the neck, sometimes it sounded strange but for some songs it allowed him to get a really percussive fingerstyle tone. Do what you want and what the song requires. I mostly play pick in my band but before it started i played finger style for about 8 years.

    If you ever want to go for sinister evil bass tones, playing at the neck is one way to do it.

  14. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I do it when I want that tone. Sometimes I float between the fretboard and front pickup, too.
  15. Pros: gives richer sound.

    Cons: difficult to play fast songs.


    Seriously, that's pretty much it.
  16. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Most of the time I pluck between the end of the neck and pickup. There aint no bigger boom than that. Only go behind the pickup when I need a sharper attach.
  17. iabssplyr


    Aug 5, 2009
    Clinton, IA
    I have a Douglas '56 P-copy with one single coil and that's where I'd hang my thumb on to play. A few weeks ago I bought bridge and pup covers only to realize I had to find a new position to anchor my thumb!

    So I moved up to the edge of the fretboard and really like it. I'm not a real fast player do it doesn't seem to be a hindrance.

    There's no right or wrong method, IMHO, as long as what you're doing sound the way you want it to.
  18. pete rallis

    pete rallis

    Feb 13, 2011
    I rest my thumb just worked out for me. Might not for others, but it gives me the tone I want, and I can play as fast there as anywhere.
  19. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    If you work at it you can make it work for faster stuff too. It helps if you pluck parallel to the body rather than downward into it. You can also make the string seem tighter by partially fretting the note with your fretting hand. What I mean is very slightly raise up off the note after establishing pitch This allows you to partially mute/stop the note, allowing you to pluck as hard as you want. Staccato to legato, all in your hands.

    Time well spent IMO.

    I pluck anywhere from over the board to right by the bridge. My thumb floats in all of these positions to facilitate muting. This kind of skill doesn't happen overnight, stick with it and it'll likely pay off. And work slowly to get up to speed.
  20. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    I pluck like you describe for a smoother rich tone, but depending on the song, my plucking hand is all over the place in order to get either better dexterity (speed), or a certain tone. For faster things, I pluck closer to the bridge.